Last week, members of the House unveiled their Medicare-for-All bill, legislation that would largely overhaul the nation’s health care system. You don’t have to look far to see that access to health care is a priority for many nationally and especially here in Alabama. Our country has made strides to improve the health care system and while there’s still work to be done, government-run health care is not the solution.
“Medicare for All” is a buzzword, a campaign talking point at best, but not a practical answer. When dealing with health care, we must look at commonsense solutions that align with the needs of Alabamians and all Americans, not just those vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidacy.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 150 million Americans get their coverage through their employer and 80 percent of people with these employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage. Additionally, 49 percent of Alabamians receive employer coverage.
However, the recent House bill calls for a one-size-fits-all approach to health care through a government-run system that would eliminate private health insurance as we know it. This plan would negatively impact consumer choice and control over their care. Today, 91 percent of Americans receive coverage under the current system. A single-payer system would disrupt the coverage millions of Americans depend on.
Like in many countries, health care costs continue to rise in the United States, and we need to focus on improving affordability. The Urban Institute estimates that a single payer system would be excessively expensive, with an estimated cost of $32 trillion. It would also raise taxes by billions of dollars every year, requiring American families to pay more and more. For Alabamians already struggling, this would be an added burden for them and an increased economic drain on our state.
On the surface, this plan may sound appealing, but it would harm those it’s intended to help the most: patients. The patient impact of this legislation is longer wait times in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices and lower quality of care. Despite most Americans being happy with their health insurance, everyone would have to give it up for a more limited plan, limiting their choice of healthcare provider and access to care.
America’s health care system needs improvement but a healthcare overhaul that would start completely from scratch and place decisions in the hands of government is not the solution. We must encourage lawmakers to make strides to improve the affordability of health care without enacting unrealistic policies that hurt all Americans.
As our leaders in Washington work to identify ways to improve the system, I encourage them to consider real solutions to health care reform, not ideas propped up by buzzwords and empty promises.
Sallie Bryant is executive director of the Alabama Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.